On October 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will begin accepting premium processing requests for all categories of H-1B petitions.  In March 2017, USCIS had suspended the premium processing program for H-1B petitions, citing the need to reduce its overwhelming processing backlog. Over the past several months, USCIS phased in premium processing for certain limited categories of H-1B petitions.  USCIS’s latest announcement allows employers to file any type of H-1B petition, including those seeking extension of stay or change of status, under Premium Processing and also allows employers to convert any such pending petitions to premium processing.

Under USCIS’ premium processing service, petitions are adjudicated within a 15 day calendar days for an additional government filing fee of $1,225 instead of the current regular processing time of 4-5 months.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced today, September 18, 2017, that it will again expand its resumption of premium processing for additional types of H-1B petitions.

Effective immediately, H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year 2018 cap are eligible for premium processing.  This includes petitions under the 65,000 cap and the 20,000 additional petitions for beneficiaries with a US master’s or higher degree.  Readers may recall that the FY 2018 cap was reached in April 2017.  Those pending filings that were selected in the H-1B lottery, which generally have October 1, 2017 start dates, are the ones that are included under this expanded resumption of premium processing.  This is indeed welcome news for both the petitioning employers and beneficiaries who may now achieve decisions that could allow the H-1B employment to begin on or shortly after the anticipated start date.

Today’s expansion of premium processing is in addition to two prior resumptions of premium processing which included:

  • H-1B petitioners who are exempt from the H-1B cap as:
    • An institution of higher education,
    • A nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education, or
    • A nonprofit research or governmental research organization.
  • H-1B  petitions that are exempt because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization or entity.
  • H-1B petitions for physicians under the Conrad 30 or an IGA (interested government agency) waiver program, and

For now, USCIS continues its temporary suspension of premium processing for all other H-1B petitions including but not limited to extensions of stay.

The Agency stated that it will continue to expand eligibility for premium processing for other types of H‑1B petitions as workloads permit.  You may recall that when USCIS announced in March 2017 that is was suspending premium processing for H-1B petitions, the agency said that it expected to resume premium processing of H-1B petitions in general by early October 2017.  This may yet be achieved.

In its announcement USCIS included a reminder that H-1B petitioners may request expedited processing based on specific criteria such as humanitarian need.

Until then, USCIS will continue to reject any Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing filed with non-eligible H-1B petitions.

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Catherine Wadhwani is a partner in the immigration practice at Fox Rothschild LLP.

This just in…the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a news release on Friday, April 22nd stating that the premium processing clock will start on Thursday, May 12, 2016. In other words, on May 12, 2016, USCIS will begin premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions.

Readers may recall that an H-1B petitioner may opt to pay an extra filing fee of $1,225.00 in exchange for premium or 15 calendar-day processing of an H-1B petition. Premium processing may be requested along with the filing of the initial petition or if the employer has a receipt notice, it may “upgrade” an already-pending H-1B petition to premium processing by filing a separate request.

Premium processing doesn’t guarantee a decision within 15 days. Rather, it means that action will be taken on a case within 15 days. That action may be a decision or it may be a request for evidence if the adjudicator finds something lacking in the petition. If a request for evidence (RFE) is issued, then from the date when USCIS receives the reply, another 15-day processing period will begin.

Normally, the 15 calendar-day processing period begins when a petition is received. Due to USCIS’s receipt of approximately 236,000 H-1B petitions during the first 5 or so days of H-1B cap season, USCIS delayed the start of the 15-day period.

As stated by USCIS in its release:

For H-1B petitions that are not subject to the cap and for any other visa classification, the 15-day processing period for premium processing service begins on the date that USCIS receives the request. However, for cap-subject H-1B petitions, including advanced degree exemption petitions, the 15-day processing period set by 8 CFR 103.7(e)(2) will begin on May 12, 2016, regardless of the date on the Form I-797 receipt notice, which indicates the date that the premium processing fee is received.

Those who requested premium processing will likely receive decisions by Friday, May 27th or so.

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Catherine Wadhwani is a Partner in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Immigration Practice Group.  She may be reached at (412) 394-5540 or cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

Robert S. Whitehill is a Partner and the Chair of Fox Rothschild LLP’s Immigration Practice Group.  He may be reached at (412) 394-5595 or rwhitehill@foxrothschild.com.

 

Beginning on October 19, 2015, there will be new direct filing addresses for Form I-140 Immigrant Petitions submitted with a Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing Service if the worksite location is in any of the following states:

  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania

See http://www.uscis.gov/news/i-140-i-485-workload-transfers-and-change-direct-filing-address-certain-form-i-140-petitions-submitted-together-form-i-907-request-premium-processing.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS or Immigration Service) announced on October 7, 2015, that starting on October 19, 2015, these forms should be filed with the Nebraska Service Center as follows:

Regular Mail: Premium Processing USCIS Nebraska Service Center P.O. Box 87103 Lincoln, NE 68501-7103

or

Express Delivery: Premium Processing USCIS Nebraska Service Center 850 S. Street Lincoln, NE 68508

Seeking Premium Processing should mean that the Immigration Service will take action on the I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker within 15 calendar days or the $1,225.00 Premium Processing fee will be refunded.

Only certain I-140 Immigrant Petition types are currently eligible for Premium Processing, including:  EB-1 Aliens of Extraordinary Ability; EB-1 Outstanding Professors and Researchers; EB-2 Members of Professions with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability Not Seeking a National Interest Waiver; and EB-3 Workers Other Than Skilled Workers and Professionals; and if designated as available and subject to certain conditions, EB-3 Skilled Workers and EB-3 Professionals.  Premium processing is not available for EB-1 Multinational Executives and Managers nor for EB-2 Members of Professions with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability Seeking a National Interest Waiver.  See http://www.uscis.gov/forms/how-do-i-use-premium-processing-service.

According to USCIS’s October 7, 2015, announcement, in order to upgrade a pending I-140 Immigrant Petition to Premium Processing, the Form I-907 should be sent to the service center that has the pending Form I-140.

Note that only an employer may file a Premium Processing request for an I-140 Immigrant Petition that requires an employer as the petitioner.  The beneficiary of an Immigrant Petition may, however, seek Premium Processing for a self-petition (that is, where the petitioner and beneficiary are the same).  Either party may pay the $1,225.00 Premium Processing filing fee.

USCIS announced that is it making the address change in order to rebalance the workload distribution between the Texas Service Center and the Nebraska Service Center.

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Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

Good news.  The Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that starting today, July 13, 2015, it will again accept premium processing requests (Form I-907 Requests for Premium Processing Service) for H-1B extension of stay petitions.

This is ahead of schedule because USCIS had estimated that H-1B extension of stay premium processing would be temporarily suspended until July 27, 2015, due to the need to devote resources to the processing of applications for H-4 work authorization (EADs for certain H-4 Dependent Spouses).

Beginning today, a newly filed H-1B extension of stay petition may again include a premium processing request, and a pending H-1B extension of stay petition may be “upgraded” with the filing of an appropriate I-907 Request for Premium Processing Service.

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Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP and may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

 

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has updated its May 19, 2015 alert announcing temporary suspension of premium processing for certain H-1B petitions.  http://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-temporarily-suspends-premium-processing-extension-stay-h-1b-petitions

Here are the highlights:

  • May 26, 2015 – July 27, 2015*:  Premium processing is suspended for all H-1B extension of stay petitions with extremely limited exceptions for cases meeting the narrow expedite criteria.  See USCIS Expedite Criteria webpage.
  • During this suspension period, premium processing will still be honored for:
    • H-1B extension of stay petitions requesting premium processing prior to May 26, 2015 (but be aware that the announcement states:  “USCIS will refund the premium processing fee if:  A petitioner filed H-1B petitions prior to May 26, 2015, using the premium processing service, and USCIS did not act on the case within the 15-calendar-day period.”)
    • Change of status H-1B petitions
    • Consular notification H-1B petitions
    • Consular notification H-1B petitions for those who have H-1B status
    • H-1B amendment petitions that do not also request an extension of stay
    • H-1B1 petitions (under the US-Chile and US-Singapore Free-Trade Agreements).

The temporary suspension is intended to enable USCIS to timely implement the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Spouses final rule, which became effective on May 26, 2015, and is anticipated to result in “an extremely high volume of Form I-765 applications”.

*USCIS has indicated that it will monitor workloads and if feasible, resume premium processing for H-1B extension petitions prior to July 27, 2015.

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Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

Last year at about this time, I published a blog post captioned, “FY 2015 H-1B Cap:  What are the Odds?” (https://immigrationview.foxrothschild.com/h-1b-temporary-workers/fy-2015-h-1b-cap-what-are-the-odds/).  According to my very basic calculations, I estimated that the odds of receiving one of the limited FY 2015 H-1B numbers was about 43% under the regular cap, with slightly better chances for those with a Master’s or higher degree.  Overall, if you didn’t deducted the 20,000 advanced degree petitions from the total, chances were about 50/50.

For FY 2016, the odds are worse.  This of course is due to an increased demand on the part of US employers.  Indeed, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that it received “nearly 233,000 H-1B petitions” toward the FY 2016 cap.  That is 60,500 more than last year, and more than enough to fill an entire year’s regular (non-advanced degree) cap if you deduct the numbers set aside for Chile and Singapore.

Simple math shows that the overall odds of receiving a number in the FY 2016 H-1B cap are about 34%.  If you deduct the 20,000 advanced degree “winners” from the total 233,000 petitions, and re-calculate, the odds decrease to 27% for the remaining petitions which include both the unselected advanced degree petitions and the regular cap petitions.

USCIS completed its computer-generated random selection process (i.e., lottery) on April 13th.  The I-797 receipt notices are beginning to arrive.  Petitioning employers and potential H-1B workers anxiously await news of their fate.  That may sound dramatic, but the reality is that of the approximately 233,000 H-1B cap-subject petitions filed for FY 2016, about 154,800 petitions will be rejected and returned.  This is dramatic for the H-1B petitioning employers and prospective employees who are not winners in the lottery even though they presumably filed meritorious petitions.

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Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  She can be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

You’ve likely been flooded with information regarding H-1B season from multiple sources.  Yesterday, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued its own information(http://www.uscis.gov/news/uscis-will-accept-h-1b-petitions-fiscal-year-2016-beginning-april-1-2015) regarding Fiscal Year 2016 (FY 2016) H-1B petitions.

Here is a summary:

  • USCIS will accept cap-subject FY 2016 H-1B petitions beginning April 1, 2015.
  • The FY 2016 H-1B cap remains at 65,000. The first 20,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions for those with a US master or higher degree do not count toward the 65,000 cap.
  • USCIS anticipates receiving more than 65,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions during the first 5 business days of April 2015. If this happens, USCIS will again use a lottery to randomly select sufficient petitions to meet the cap.
  • USCIS will issue a notice to the public when the FY 2016 H-1B cap has been met.
  • Unselected cap-subject petitions and petitions received after the cap has closed will be rejected.
  • Cases will be deemed accepted on the date when USCIS “takes possession of a properly filed petition with the correct fee.”
  • Petitioners are reminded to follow regulatory requirements, which should help with avoiding delays and requests for evidence (RFEs).
  • Due to the anticipated high volume of FY 2016 cap-subject H-1B petitions and to allow time to prioritize data entry, the 15-day premium processing clock will not begin on receipt of a petition. Instead, USCIS states that for FY 2016 cap-subject H-1B petitions, premium processing will begin no later than May 11, 2015.
  • USCIS will provide” H-1B Cap Season email updates” for which you can subscribe on the H-1B 2016 Cap Season Web Page, which can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/h-1b-specialty-occupations-and-fashion-models/h-1b-fiscal-year-fy-2016-cap-season.

Happy H-1B season.

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Ms. Wadhwani is a partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP.  She may be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.

H-1B visa cap season is rapidly approaching as the deadline to file for Fiscal Year 2015 begins April 1, 2014 and ends April 7, 2014 (the first five business days of April).  We strongly encourage Employers to begin preparing for the H-1B visa process as soon as possible and to not wait till the last minute.  The limit on H-1B cap subject petitions is 65,000, with an additional 20,000 visas available for individuals who have earned a U.S. Master’s degree or higher from an accredited U.S. educational institution.

Timing is everything!  In order for the petition to be filed in within the filing window, in order to be considered in the random lottery process that is again expected to occur this year, a significant amount of information and documentation needs to be gathered, synthesized and presented in an approvable set of forms and supporting statement.  This year, we expect that even more people will be applying for H-1B visas than last year.  Last year there were approximately 132,000 petitions submitted for the available 65,000 visas.  Accordingly, it is anticipated that the cap will again be reached in the first week of April and USCIS will run its random selection process to choose those petitions that will be accepted for processing (i.e. actually considered for an H-1B visa).  As any of you familiar with the H-1B visa process, selection in the random lottery process does not guarantee an H-1B visa; it only guarantees that the petition will be judged on its merits and, if approvable, then an H-1B visa will be granted.  Rejection from the random lottery process, however, is a firm/non appealable denial – no H-1B visa is possible for those petitions.

If you are an employer seeking to sponsor a foreign national for an H-1B visa, such as a student currently working pursuant to an optional practical training employment authorization which is set to expire this coming spring or summer, then you should begin the process of preparing for that H-1B petition sooner rather than later.  If your H-1B petition is not properly received by USCIS within the first five business days of April 2014 so that it may be considered in the random selection process, then you will not be able to secure an H-1B visa for the coming year.  Please recall that irrespective of when the petition is filed or if/when approved, the employment start date of the visa will not be earlier than October 1, 2014.  If you are lucky enough to be filing a petition for a student who currently has optional practical training employment authorization which will expire this spring or summer, then so long as the H-1B petition for that person is pending or approved, then that person’s work authorization is automatically extended until Sept. 30, 2014.  If the petition is rejected (random) or otherwise denied, this automatic extension of employment authorization immediately ceases.

When the Fiscal Year 2015 H-1B cap has been reached, employers will be unable to seek H-1B Cap-subject visas again until April 2015 (for start dates of Oct. 1, 2015).

Please contact Alka Bahal, Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP, for assistance with your H-1B visa processing needs.

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Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP.  Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or abahal@foxrothschild.com.

As anticipated, last Friday (April 5, 2013), USCIS received enough cap-subject H-1B petitions to meet or exceed the available number of H-1B spots for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY 2014).  Full details can be found on USCIS’s website.

H-1B petitioners and beneficiaries will now anxiously await news of whether or not their filings are granted one of the precious H-1B spots. 

To begin the lottery process (i.e., computer-generated random selection process), for all H-1B petitions received by the Immigration Services on or before April 5, 2013, USCIS has stated that it will first conduct the selection process for Master Cap (i.e., advanced degree) petitions. 

When that step is completed, remaining Master Cap petitions will be included in the lottery for Regular H-1B Cap numbers. 

USCIS has not yet announced the date on which the H-1B lottery will occur, but an announcement is expected soon along with information regarding the number of filings received, and presumably including information regarding H-1B numbers set aside pursuant to treaty for citizens of Chile and Singapore.

As a reminder, the 15-day premium processing period is not set to begin for cap-subject H-1B petitions until Monday, April 15, 2013. 

Of course, H-1B cap-exempt petitions continue to be accepted and processed. 

For those who do not receive an FY 2014 H-1B spot or are not exempt from the H-1B cap, there may be alternatives.  It’s best to be prepared by consulting with qualified immigration counsel regarding possible options.

The author can be reached at cwadhwani@foxrothschild.com.